The plan he’s peddling may seem far-fetched. Try and coax 10 per cent of Calgary’s automobile-centric commuters out of the cosy confines of their compacts, station wagons and SUVs and onto a bicycle seat on a daily basis.
A stretch? Perhaps. But Ald. Brian Pincott not only walks the walk, he pedals the pedal.
“There’s no question we’ve built a car city and if you want to get around in this city by any other means first and foremost you need determination,” said Pincott, whose own 24-speed Kona Dew Deluxe is often parked in his stall at city hall, flanked by gas-guzzling vehicles.
Bicycles have long been an afterthought in sprawling Calgary with only 200 kilometres of bike lanes and daily commuter bike traffic into the core only accounting for about 1.5 per cent of the total trips.
Sure, there are leagues of bike paths winding through Calgary, but changing the mindset of the bicycle as a recreational tool to a commuting vehicle on par with cars and trucks will require some effort. And part of that effort may start on Wednesday’s Earth Day. Pincott will join residents at the South Calgary Community Centre in Altadore at 7:30 a.m. for “Leave your car behind day.”
While he’s hoping for an armada of two-wheeled traffic rolling into core that day, Pincott said he’s happy that at least people are beginning to realize the potential for the bike as a viable transportation option.
“Every 1,500 bikes we get on the road means one more lane of traffic we don’t have to build — so for the city to get people on to bikes is dirt cheap,” he said.
But it can’t just be the city that promotes the bicycle. Businesses in the core need to get on the two-wheeled bandwagon, Pincott said, and start providing bike lockups and shower facilities.
While cash-strapped owners may balk at the idea, when you consider the cost to provide a single downtown parking stall is $80,000, the math makes more sense.
The inner city alderman acknowledges Calgary will never mirror European cities that boast huge percentages of bicycle use.
But getting one in 10 commuters to opt for the bike? “It seems very low, but that would be a remarkable number and achievable,” Pincott said.